Asset forfeiture bill taken up by Senate committee

May 15, 2018

The Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police say a bill in the state Senate would handcuff their ability to combat drug crimes.

But lawmakers say the bill would reinstate due process.

Civil asset forfeiture allows officers to seize property they suspect is involved with illegal activity - without pressing charges.

A bill in the state senate would require a conviction before police can seize property worth under 50-thousand dollars.

Bill sponsor, Republican Representative Peter Lucido said the forfeiture program needs more checks and balances.

“You’re not going to take my money or my property and tell me I’m guilty of something until you prove it. That’s what this is all about: fairness, justice, and most importantly: due process.”

Robert Stevenson with the Michigan Association of Chiefs of Police said checks and balances are already in place.

“We have to prove that there’s a nexus between anything we seize and narcotics trafficking and we have to prove that with clear and convincing evidence.”

But Lucido said the current standard is fairly subjective.

“They discern whether or not they believe the assets are required as a result of drugs.”

Lucido said these subjective measures can incentivize departments to seize assets to pad police budgets.

Stevenson said that just isn’t the case.

“No police department can seize enough money to run their police department. That just doesn’t happen. And don’t forget on any of these cases the prosecutor has to be involved. There are checks and balances - which there should be.”

According to the 2017 Police Forfeiture Report state proceeds from forfeiture were worth over 12 million dollars.

Lucido pointed out that while people can contest property seizure in court it often requires money that has been seized by police.

Police are not currently required to return property if charges are not brought or if a person is acquitted.

The bill passed out of house and has been referred to a Senate Committee.